From the Executive Director

Washington Notes, April 1993

Samuel R. Gammon, April 1993

The month of February and early March involved AHA headquarters in a number of encounters with organizations outside the Association who are equally devoted to aspects of the discipline of history.

In early February, we renewed our contacts with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, taking advantage of the recent installation of a new president of that organization, Richard Moe. While preservation and our learned society concerns are indeed related, they might accurately be characterized as cousins rather than siblings in Clio's family.

The same week also saw the first meeting convened in the Washington area of the newly resettled National History Day governing board. National History Day moved from its longtime home in Cleveland at Case Western Reserve University last fall to quarters at the University of Maryland, College Park, and also to a closer relationship with the AHA. We have long participated in National History Day activities and made a modest annual contribution to its finances. In order to save it the fees that University of Maryland would have charged for payroll and fringe benefit services to History Day staff, the AHA Council approved our assuming this service responsibility as an added AHA contribution. The importance and success of National History Day through the years in actively involving tens of thousands of precollegiate students with history is a major and continuing contribution to the health of our field.

Another very time-consuming effort engaged headquarters staff and the elected leadership of the Association during February. In the April 1992 issue of Perspectives, we described the Association's participation in the National History Standards Project, a federally funded effort to redefine the focus, content priorities, and processes for establishing national achievement standards in both U.S. and world history. Despite some hesitancies related to the often tricky politics of education reform, the AHA, given its long and proud history of helping define the primary and secondary school agenda for history teaching, could only lend its best efforts to such an important undertaking.

Over the past several months the Teaching Division and the AHA Council have expressed growing concern about several procedural and one substantive aspect of the project. Exchanges of views with the project's leaders culminated in a special invitation for our President Louise A. Tilly, President-Elect Thomas C. Holt, and Teaching Division Vice President Robert A. Blackey to attend the scheduled meeting of the Standards Project's Council in Washington on February 20 to discuss these issues.

On the procedural matters—the standing of precollegiate teachers, excerpting of AHA focus-group reports, and the right of AHA observers to address the Council—a full understanding was reached.

Differences still persist on the one substantive issue, the wording of the only Standards criterion relating exclusively to world history. The AHA leaders' concern was to arrive at a wording which would preserve a due attention to the Western heritage of U.S. students without unduly privileging Western history vis-a-vis other important civilizations of history. No satisfactory wording was developed despite yeoman efforts by those present, but discussions are continuing.

The Committee on Minority Historians met in Washington on March 6. Notwithstanding the absence of two members of the committee caused by travel and other problems on a snowy weekend, the session was a fruitful one. An extensive review of the AHA's existing pamphlet literature and plans for additional publications relating to minorities was conducted. A second pamphlet in the Diversity Within America series is due shortly. A possible conference on teaching the history of racial ethnic minorities was discussed. Progress on a planned pamphlet, Why Become a Historian?, to capture role model experiences was welcomed. The committee decided to raise with the Teaching and Research Divisions the possible use of annual meetings to attract the interest of minority juniors and seniors as well as graduate students in colleges and universities to help fill the pipeline of future Ph.D.'s. And finally, the committee decided to seek the guidance of the Professional Division on refining the definition of minorities, currently based on an ethnic, country-of-family-origin approach.